e-Veritas
’Canes in the Community

Generating the Next Generation of Leaders

By Michael R. Malone
UM News

Leadership-Miami

The 38th Leadership Miami class, which graduated last week, included five emerging leaders sponsored by the University.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (June 8, 2017)—Helping veterans traumatized by war duty in Iraq and Afghanistan find solace and renewed purpose wasn’t Melissa Szaja’s first choice for her Leadership Miami service project. “I’m an animal lover through and through,” she says. But working with veterans as part of the leadership training program taught her about her own motives and passion to serve the city she now calls home.

“These were all people who had served their country, and they wanted to keep giving back. Many of us who have not served don’t do nearly what they do,” said Szaja, director of development and alumni relations in the Office of Advancement at the Miller School of Medicine.

Szaja was among 92 budding leaders, including four others from UM, selected for the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s 2016-17 Leadership Miami (LM) class. Now in its 38th year, the program aims to groom and prepare the next generation of leaders to address vital county issues and meet future challenges.

Providing scholarships for UM participants, the University has been a consistent and major talent contributor to the program—90 students over the past 15 years, according to Mindy Herris, Community Relations manager. Among them was Sergio M. Gonzalez, outgoing senior vice president for advancement and external affairs.

Also joining Szaja in this year’s class, which graduated June 7, were Ijeoma Adele, director of special projects in the Office of the President; Michael Baumhardt, associate director of student activities and organizations; Michelle Costa, manager of special events at the UM-NSU Center for Autism and Related Disabilities; and Nikki Traylor-Knowles, assistant professor at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

Over the year-long program, members of “LM38” attended Saturday focus sessions—on government; education; environment; economic development; arts, culture and sports—and professional development workshops to hone leadership skills. They also conducted fieldwork, then developed, implemented, and documented a community service project.

The experience no doubt left a mark on many illustrious alumni, who include former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, former Coral Gables Mayor Donald Slesnick, and Jayne Harris Abess, whose philanthropy established UM’s Leonard and Jayne Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy.

Mary Young, executive director of career services at the School of Business Administration, was part of the UM cohort that graduated with the program in 1996. The experience, she said, anchored her career. “I was new to town, wanted to make an impact on the community, and didn’t know where to start,” she says.

Young sees the nexus between UM and the chamber as invaluable and supports it in many ways, including serving as chair of Leadership Programs, overseeing Helping Young Professionals Engage (HYPE) Miami, Leadership Miami and its younger sibling, Youth Leadership Miami, and Senior Executive Orientation.

In her position at the University, Young helps business and MBA students chart their career direction, and she’s an advocate of investing in more leadership opportunities that give students more access to training, connection to the community, and to established professionals. “Our hope at the U is not only to have a greater imprint on the community, but also to help our students engage,” said Young.

Like Young, Szaja, who grew up in Boca Raton and lived for 10 years in Central Florida, was new to Miami, new to the University, eager to make connections—and an impact.

Leadership Miami trips to the Everglades and to Miami’s diverse neighborhoods exposed her to the area’s rich tropical terrain and multi-ethnic landscape. Collaborating with her project team opened her eyes to new leadership challenges.

“Everyone was strong on the team, and there’s no hierarchy. You have to learn who’s reliable, who will do what they say they will, and what skills people have,” Szaja said. Her biggest challenge was synching the program’s schedule with an already bulging work calendar.

For her project,

For their project, Melissa Szaja’s team created a public service announcement exploring how veterans feel when someone acknowledges their service.

Szaja’s team, Team 38HOT (Helping Others Together), stumbled at first to find their focus and establish roles, but they persevered and regained their footing as their community project—supporting United Way Mission United, an initiative that helps veterans transition from active duty to civilian life—prospered. As part of their project, Team 38HOT crafted a public service announcement, “Veteran’s View,” to highlight the frustrations many veterans feel, particularly about the often well-intended but rote and cliché comments others make about them and their military service. The video offered an outlet—and a teaching tool.

“The project is the vehicle to accomplish the program,” said William Dukes, chair of the Leadership Miami committee and coordinator of the 92 budding leaders and 30 volunteers this past year. “The end goal is that all participants come through to the other side a better version of themselves and with a greater awareness of what’s going on in the city—and a greater empowerment of what it takes to bring together a group of people to get something done and make an impact.”

Today, Catherine Garrido, a 2015-16 Miami Leadership fellow, is an enthusiastic assistant director of admissions in the School of Business Administration. Last year, as she entered the leadership program, her outlook was far different. Garrido’s job of 23 years with another organization was being phased out. A single mother with two children, she took full advantage of the skill-building and networking opportunities the program afforded.

Her activism earned her the Carlos Arboleya Community Service Award, presented to the participant who demonstrates the strongest commitment to community service throughout the program year. The connections and relationships she forged were critical to helping her secure her new position at the University.

So grateful for how the program boosted her confidence and career, Garrido was eager to “pay it forward.” She’s become a hub at the University to facilitate student participation and stepped up to serve as chair for Leadership Miami alumni. In this capacity, she’s putting the finishing touches on a print yearbook for the LM38 class and organizing the first gathering of alumni planned for 2019—a volunteer day and social night—in celebration of LM’s 40th anniversary.

In addition to 38HOT, other UM leaders’ projects this year included: Adele’s Make It MYami, which developed educational workshops for under-served children and families; Costa’s MAD Miami, which worked with the nonprofit Guitars Over Guns to provide musical instruments as a creative outlet; Traylor-Knowles’ Evolve Miami, which partnered with Easter Seals to renovate a community garden, a mural, and recreation areas; and Baumhardt’s Voice Myami, which assisted children with autism by installing equipment and renovating a playground, providing teaching materials, and spreading awareness of autism.

“Each of us grew as a leader, contributed back to the community in a large way, and believe we represented UM very well,” Baumhardt said.

The program is open to college graduates of any age who are in the workforce and on their career paths. Applications for the next Leadership Miami class will be available later this summer; please check Veritas for notices. Students should request an application from Mindy Herris at mherris@miami.edu or call 305-284-5478. A limited number of scholarships are offered by the University.

 

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Miami Hurricanes Holiday Gift Drive Now Underway

Now underway, the 2016 Miami Hurricanes Holiday Gift Drive has set its sights on collecting 1,000 toys and gifts for underprivileged children and senior citizens in South Florida. Faculty, staff, students, and members of the UM community at large are welcome to drop unwrapped toys for children and gifts for seniors in the donation carts in the University Center Lower Lounge and at the Butler Center for Service and Leadership Development in the Shalala Student Center, room 204, through Wednesday, December 7.

Coordinated by the Butler Center, the toy drive is the University’s largest and longest running holiday drive and, for the third year, is partnering with Home Instead Senior Care’s Be a Santa to a Senior program to provide gifts to area seniors. The Butler Center also collaborates with many other community organizations, including Hope for Miami, Just Kids Centers, Inc., and UM’s Miller School of Medicine to help provide their clients and patients with an amazing holiday season.

If your department or office is interested in getting involved with The Miami Hurricanes Holiday Gift Drive and/or for more information, contact the Butler Center at leadandserve@miami.edu or 305-284-4483.

 

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Behind Bars, Writing Tutors Focus on Prose

By Deserae E. del Campo
Special to UM News

Inmates at the Dade Correctional Institution look froward to their one-on- one sessions with UM tutors.

Inmates at the Dade Correctional Institution look forward to their one-on- one  sessions with UM writing tutors.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (September 7, 2016)—The routine for each tutoring session is always the same for University of Miami writing coaches Ben Bogart and Kimberly McGrath. Walk through the metal detector, wait for a pat-down by the guards, affirm they carry no contraband—no cellphone, no weapon, no cash over $60—then cross the courtyard to a large room in another building and wait for their students.

Their classroom may be behind razor wire, their students dressed in prison blues, and their one-on-one guidance often interrupted by a head count, but the curriculum at Dade Correctional Institution doesn’t vary from what’s taught at the UM Writing Center 30 miles to the north: Improve your sentence structure and critical thinking skills, practice how to edit and revise your stories, manipulate your word choice, work on your prose.

“During the tutoring session, the focus is always on their writing. I don’t know their crimes or even their sentences,” said McGrath, who usually lectures in UM’s English Department but participated in summer tutoring session for Exchange for Change, Inc. “I am impressed by their stories and the topics they write about. Their efforts are amazing.”

A nonprofit organization that promotes dialogue and social change through written partnerships, Exchange for Change usually arranges anonymous writing exchanges between classrooms in prison and classrooms in high school and universities. But in October 2015 Exchange for Change began partnering with UM’s Writing Center to offer one-on-one tutoring to inmates like Allington Dottin. He deems the lessons “essential.”

“If I must list a single improvement it would be my transformation from ‘fiction reporter’ to ‘factual novelist,’” Dottin, 43, told Exchange for Change, which conveyed his remarks to UM. “I had great ideas that fell flat due to the lack of involvement, a paucity of feelings, and an absence of redeeming qualities for my characters. UM tutoring reconciled all these and more.”

Another inmate, Luis Hernandez, 34, credits the program for giving voice to the voiceless. “I am a living example of years when my voice was not heard,” he told Exchange for Change. “Now, through the tutoring and the confidence they give me, I share my voice with anyone who wants to read it. The tutors have so much insight and valuable help to give me, I don’t want to hold back from them because they give my writing more life.”

Joshua Schriftman, associate director of Exchange for Change and another lecturer in UM’s English Department, said many prisoners are working on memoirs and novels and see Bogart and McGrath as often as they can. “We also have students who are very new to the art of writing,” Schriftman said. “We try to accommodate students with all levels of experience. Our goal is to help prisoners develop writing skills and become better writers. That’s really the heart of the program.”

For now, Exchange for Change also offers creative writing courses in four correctional institutions and a juvenile facility in South Florida, but DCI is the only location where tutoring is offered. The organization hopes to expand the tutoring program to other correctional institutions and start additional programs with UM, such as a Spanish-language letter exchange workshop.

Bogart, who also taught a rhetoric course at DCI during the summer, said most of the students “pay attention to the news and write, what I like to call, the ‘State of the Union address’ where they respond to current problems. For example, many students write about the Black Lives Matter movement and what’s happening with the current election.”

McGrath is inspired by seeing firsthand how writing can empower people. “In their work, I can hear their voices in a place where their voices are normally unheard,” she said. “Prison does not have to define who you are in life, and I see how the students’ writings are redefining their lives.”

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March 3 Day of Service to Focus on Fire Safety

Research shows that people who have working smoke alarms in their homes double their chances of surviving a fire. On Thursday, March 3, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., UM faculty and staff can once again make a difference in our community by improving fire safety during the 2016 University of Miami Day of Service.

In support of the American Red Cross “25 Alive” Home Fire Preparedness Campaign, powered by the United Way, UM volunteers will help install household smoke alarms and educate residents in west Miami-Dade about fire safety.

Volunteers will meet at 8 a.m. at the football stadium at Florida International University, where they will receive a Red Cross T-shirt, training, supplies, and team assignments. Lunch will be provided during an end-of-service celebration.

Space is limited. Register online by Thursday, February 18. Please be sure to obtain your supervisor’s approval prior to registering. Confirmed volunteers will receive additional details closer to the Day of Service.

The fire safety event is hosted in partnership with the Greater Miami & The Keys Chapter of the American Red Cross and the United Way of Miami-Dade. For more information, review the frequently asked questions or email userv@miami.edu.

 

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Miami Hurricanes Holiday Gift Drive Now Underway

ToyDriveThe 2015 Miami Hurricanes Holiday Gift Drive is now underway with a goal of collecting 1,000 toys and gifts—double the number collected last year—for underprivileged children and senior citizens in South Florida. Faculty, staff, students, and members of the UM community are welcome to drop unwrapped toys for children and gifts for seniors in the donation carts in the Whitten University Center lower lobby and the Butler Center for Volunteer Service and Leadership Development at the Shalala Student Center, room 204, through Tuesday, December 8.

Coordinated by the Butler Center, the toy drive is the University’s largest and longest running holiday drive and, for the second year, is partnering with Home Instead Senior Care’s Be a Santa to a Senior program to provide gifts to area seniors. The Butler Center also collaborates with many other community organizations, including the Children’s Home Society of Florida, Just Kids Centers, Inc., the Family Resource Center, Allapattah Community Action, and UM’s Miller School of Medicine to help provide their clients and patients with an amazing holiday season.

If your department or office is interested in getting involved with the Miami Hurricanes Holiday Gift Drive and/or for more information, contact the Butler Center at leadandserve@miami.edu or 305-284-4483.

 

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